The Effects of Nozzle Size on 3D Printing
Fused Disposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printers melt plastic and extrude it through a small nozzle in order to apply that plastic accurately to a flat surface one layer at a time, with each layer resting on the previous layer. The bigger the hole in the nozzle the more plastic is extruded at a time and the faster a print can be completed. So wouldn’t it be fastest to just print everything with a nozzle with a giant hole?
Yes, it would be faster, however the nozzle size also impacts the quality of the printed part. Because larger nozzles like the massive 1.2mm Volcano nozzle on Access 3D Services’s Beast extrude more plastic, they are limited in the minimum amount of plastic they can extrude which can reduce the printer’s ability to create minute details in a model. If a structure within a model, for example the wall of a castle, is smaller than the hole in the nozzle, then the printer will be unable to create that structure. So couldn’t we just use a tiny nozzle for every print so we don’t have to worry about missing small details?
You could, but often 3D printed items are made as a prototype or a working part that doesn’t have to look nice but just has to be strong enough to function, and using a tiny nozzle like the 0.2mm Micro Swiss nozzle on Access 3D Services’s Flashforge Dreamer would not only cause prints to take longer to produce but would have a negative impact on the strength of the model. While tiny nozzles can create extremely fine detail objects, they are limited in the maximum amount of plastic they can extrude and must operate much more slowly so that the extrusion of the melted plastic can keep up with the movement of the printer head. Because they extrude less plastic at a time, models take that much longer to produce. A 1.2mm nozzle can create a 1.2mm line in one pass of the head, whereas a 0.2mm nozzle would take 6 passes to create the same line. This additional movement will significantly impact the total print time, so there is a fine balance that must be maintained between print time and print quality based on the needs of the specific model.
So you see, the nozzle size has a major impact on print quality, but it also impacts print strength. Take the two nozzles in the previous example. If each creates a cube with a 1.2mm wall, the 1.2mm nozzle will lay down one thick line of plastic per layer whereas the 0.2mm nozzle will lay down 6 thin lines of plastic per layer. The 1.2mm nozzle line has 1.2mm of material joined at each layer of the print, whereas the 0.2mm nozzle has 0.2mm of material joined horizontally and vertically to another 0.2mm of material. The surface tension of the 1.2mm nozzle line is much greater, resulting in a significantly stronger part.
Nozzle size is only one of many variables that must be taken into consideration in order to create the ideal part for a given application. At Access 3D Services we will work with you to determine the optimal nozzle size depending on your strength, detail and other specific needs, and can help you balance quality, strength, print time and cost based on those needs. If you have any questions or have a project in mind you’d like our help with please don’t hesitate to contact us at (203) 403-7041, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.access3dservices.com!
Article by Joe Eckert, Operations Director, Access 3D Services
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